LACONIA — After hosting three design charettes last Friday, Plan N.H., a volunteer team of architects, engineers and planners, capped its contribution to the effort to the Planning Department's enterprise to "Reimagine Laconia" by presenting its suggestions to some 15 interested residents at the Grace Capital Church on Saturday afternoon.
Drawing on information gathered during the charettes, the team addressed each of three busineses "villages" composing the city — downtown, Lakeport and The Weirs — confining its vision to central elements of each. The team is in the process of preparing maps, including overlays of existing conditions, to illustrate its findings.
Dowtown, the team stressed calming the traffic and catering to pedestrians on both Beacon Street East and Beacon Street West. Beacon Street East, they suggested could be narrowed to a single lane of vehicles and a narrower lane for bicycles. At the same time, so-called bump-outs could be installed at pedestrian crossings, which by increasing the visibility of both the crossing and pedestrians would enhance safety. The street lights, which are currently more appropriate to a highway, could be lowered to match those on Main Street, creating a more urban ambence.
The team suggested breaking Becacon Street West near the intersection with Water Street where it would take a right angle turn toward Main Street then turn south to the Main Street Bridge. The reconfigured streetscape, they said, would create space for small shops facing Beacon Street West, which now looks on to the backs of stores on Main Street. Likewise, the team foresaw developing a portion of the City Hall parking lot by lining Beacon Street East, north of Hanover Street, with retail space.
At Weirs Beach, the team envisioned a destination hotel on the lot fat the corner of Endicott Street North and Lakeside Avenue overlooking the sign, formerly occupied by a waterslide. They encouraged completion of the WOW Trail from downtown through The Weirs to Meredith. The parking lot at Endicott Rock, they suggested, could be replaced with grassed park and a picnic pavilion and the connection between the beach and the Weirs Community Park over the Weirs Channel Bridge could be improved. The plan emphasized moving parking to the perimeter and enhancing the walkability of the center of Weirs Beach.
In Lakeport, the team concentrated on Lakeport Square, especially with proposals to improve the safety of pedestrians navigating the junction from all directions. Noting that the dearth of parking is a major concern of business owners, they suggested businesses operating at different hours be encouraged to share parking spaces. But they also decried the overall amount of asphalt in the area and recommended the dedication of a portion of the large Lake Opechee Inn & Spa parking lot to additional retail (canoe rentals, etc.) and a more direct connection to the lake itself.
Assistant Planner Brandee Loughlin said the results of the design charettes will be be incorporated into the land use chapter of the Master Plan.
Meanwhile, the Community Opportunities Group of Boston, which is contributing to the economic development section of the Master Plan, also met with residents on Saturday to discuss four major themes — identity and branding, entrepreneurship, workforce training and recruitment and strengthening existing businesses. Much of the emphasis fell on defining the unique identity of the community and fashioning a persuasive that would enable the city to market its assets and opportunities to potential entrepreneurs and investors.
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